Audio Technology….Hip Hop’s Gift, and Curse. Worldwide Opportunity or Saturation?
Its almost 2am in the morning. I’m sitting in my home studio finishing the mix-down for a verse I recorded earlier that night to send to my homeboy Promise. Promise, a truly talented emcee out of Toronto and I have been collaborating on projects together for around three and a half years, and have actually become pretty close friends outside of music over the years. What makes this situation so much more interesting is the fact that we have only been in the same room together a handful of times, none of which were to record. All of our collaborations have materialized via sending files over the net.
This is a situation that has pretty much become common place to me. Thanks to pioneers like The Foreign Exchange, who turned the music world upside down with their classic and critically acclaimed debut Album “Connected”. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 5 years, “The Foreign Exchange” is a group formed by founding members Phonte (From the Group “Little Brother”) and Nicolae (A producer from the Netherlands). All the much deserved hype surrounding “Connected” was not simply driven by the shear quality and magnificence of the project, but also because of the way it came to fruition.
Phonte is rumored to have met Nicolae in the chat room of a prominent Hip Hop Site. The two began exchanging files through e-mail and before you know it, A full blown album was the result. Although this probably not the first time artists had collaborated in this way, It definately for me was one of the first I had ever heard of. It completely opened my eyes to a completely new way of making music, as well as helped me to see the need to expand my base of musicians I was seeking to collab with.
The other side of the equation for me was the realization of just how easy it was becoming for the average person to produce and record music these days. I am only 29 years old, but needless to say alot has changed from the time I started making music. Back in the day, anyone who wanted to make music had to go to a full out recording studio. Going to the studio, or “The Stu” as we call it nowadays was an extremely painful and EXPENSIVE process! Everything had to be done by the engineer, and you were charged by the hour by a guy who seemed to take his sweet time doing everything! Not to mention the fact that you were probably using Dat or Adat tape which was crazy expensive, and you were talking about spending hundreds of dollars, even before mixing and mastering.
Technology today has made it so that basically anyone who wants to produce or record music can do so, and do it just as good as the seasoned pro. Applications like Audacity, Garage Band, and Cool Edit are now standard. Computers now come shipped with some type of audio recording software, making it an even more accessible outlet for the aspiring musician to delve into. Companies have not stopped at the music production and recording audience either, The Dj community has also seen a very similar surge in the availability of low cost yet extremely capable and high quality digital Dj technology. This technology allows even the most novice DJ to scratch and mix records, performing techniques that took many seasoned DJ’s years to perfect.
The good in all of this, at least from my point of view, is that in an industry that has historically been ruled by record companies exerting complete and total control of all aspects of the creative process, this technology has given the power back to the artists. Aside from the ability to produce and record in the privacy of their own creative spaces, Powerful networking sites such as Reverb Nation, Facebook, and Myspace have basically turned independent artists into their own record labels. These sites allow an artist to promote their music, book shows, and pretty much do any of the tasks a label would do for them.
The down side, at least for me, is that because of the fact that anyone can make music, EVERYONE does. It seems like everyone I meet nowadays is either a rapper or makes beats. Its actually a little comical sometimes, because you will approach someone to sell them a CD or invite them to a show and they end up trying to sell you a CD. All in all though I dont much mind that, and I like the fact that people can be educated and have fun with the music, thats what its supposed to be about anyway. My problem however is, it seems that individuals who usually would have no chance in hell at getting their music heard by the masses are now being pushed to the forefront. Its almost like the overall standard for music nowadays is becoming less quality. The biggest drawback however in my opinion to this huge influx of aspiring music makers, is that it makes it that much harder to find the true dope independent artists. Going on myspace nowadays searching for dope producers is almost like looking for a sewing needle in a barrel full of nails, Not only is it painful, but its seemingly pointless.
The fact is however that there were plenty of horrible acts out there before, and there always will be. Im extremely grateful at the modern marvels of technology that have allowed me the opportunity to get my music to the people. I will continue to marvel and appreciate just how easy and accessible technology has made pursing a career in music for me, all the while continue hoping that more dope producers and artists are looking just as hard for me as I am for them.
Author: Emcee Nemesis